Rhetorical Techniques Persuasion Through Rhetoric: Common Devices and Techniques
Definitions of Rhetoric
Plato: Rhetoric is "the art of winning the soul by discourse."
Aristotle: Rhetoric is "the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of
the available means of persuasion.
Definitions of Rhetoric
Francis Bacon: Rhetoric is the application of reason to imagination "for the better moving of the will."
George Campbell: [Rhetoric] is that art or talent by which discourse is
adapted to its end. The four ends of discourse are to enlighten the understanding, please the imagination, move the passion, and influence the will.
Definitions of Rhetoric
Kenneth Burke: "Rhetoric is rooted in an essential function of language itself, a function that is wholly realistic and continually born anew: the use of
language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols."
"Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric, and wherever there is
rhetoric, there is meaning."
Elements of Rhetoric
Context—occasion or time it is written or spoken
2. Purpose– goal the writer/speaker wishes to achieve
3. Thesis (claim, assertion)– main idea; clear, focused statement
Ethos – how well does the writer present himself
Pathos – how well does the writer affect the reader’s emotions
Logos – how well does the writer use “text”
“ Ethos” refers to the writer’s “ethical appeal,” that is, how well the writer presents herself.
Does she seem knowledgeable, reasonable and trustworthy?
Does she treat her opponents, people who might disagree, with fairness and respect, or does she take cheap shots?
Does she try to establish common ground with the reader?
“ Pathos” refers to the argument’s “emotional appeals,” that is, how well the writer taps into the reader’s emotions.
Many times, this appeal is how a writer will make an argument “matter” to the reader.
Could appeal to emotions such as sadness, pride, fear, anger, patriotism, etc.
“ Logos” corresponds with the argument’s “logical appeals,” that is, how well the reader uses the “text” of his own argument and evidence.
Logos arguments will contain facts, data, statistics, expert testimony, etc.
Writing that relies solely on logos can become boring to a reader.
A rhetorical device is a linguistic device used primarily to influence beliefs and attitudes and behavior. It uses language to establish a belief or feeling that may or may not be linked to any logical support.
They are often referred to as “slanters” because they try to put a slant or spin on the information.
They do not add any logical power to an argument, but they are extremely effective in providing psychological power to an argument.
A rhetorical device is simply a choice of words or arrangement of words that carry a particular connotation that emphasizes the writer’s/speaker’s goal.
They are used to lead an audience in a certain direction or to a particular conclusion.
Rhetorical devices are not bad , it is just that, in themselves , they give us neither a reason to accept nor a reason to reject an argument.
However, used effectively, rhetorical devices enhance the writer’s/speaker’s purpose – usually by connecting images to intended meanings..
A figure of speech (more specifically a trope) that compares two distinct and unlike things by using words such as like or as to link the comparison. The comparison can be used to create a visual image or add power to the speaker’s original point.
“ The Governor was reaching for any explanation that would justify his actions, like a drowning man clutching at a piece of driftwood.”
A figure of speech (more specifically a trope) that associates two distinct things.
By establishing a visual image, metaphors often effect the audience’s belief without including specific evidence.
Example: Obama is a criminal and he should be removed from office before he destroys the freedoms of this great nation.
Rather than always making a direct comparison, metaphor is different from simile in that it establishes a “figure” that provides an image for a reader.
“ I really plowed through The Hunger Game last night.”
“ I waded through the conversation, trying not to upset my parents.”
“ When he is around his girlfriend, he is a real doormat.”
Hyperbole is extravagant overstatement; obvious exaggeration for effect; an extravagant statement that is not intended to be understood literally .
“ I’d rather have my lower extremities shoved into a wood chipper than spend another minute in English class.” The exaggeration is obvious making the intended message extremely clear.
Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling than the word or phrase it replaces.
A dysphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be more offensive, disturbing, or troubling than the word or phrase it replaces.
‘ Sanitary landfill’ instead of ‘garbage dump’
‘ Pre-owned vehicles’ instead of ‘used cars’
‘ Correctional facility’ instead of ‘prison’
‘ Percussive maintenance’ instead of ‘to repair with loud hammering’
‘ Pro-choice’ instead of ‘pro-abortion’
‘ Ball and chain’ instead of ‘spouse’
‘ Bureaucrat’ instead of ‘government employee’
‘ Tree hugger’ instead of ‘environmentalist’
“ Legalized murder” instead of “abortion”
“ Nerd” instead of “AP English Student”
Just Kidding, I know that you are not nerds, well some of you aren’t!
A rhetorical explanation is an explanation that is intended to influence the hearer’s attitudes or behavior by attempting to make connections that may not have validity.
“ He is going to vote for Obama because he has always liked people who can’t stand by their decisions.”
“ Nathan obviously lacks character, insight and intelligence; he’s an Eagles fan for goodness sake.”
A stereotype is a thought about or an image of a group of people, animals, or things that is based on little or no evidence.
“ Blondes have more fun.”
“ Men are pigs.”
“ Bald teachers are the best teachers.”
“ Thespians are all giant wussies.”
I’m only kidding—I was in theater too!
An innuendo is a form of suggestion in which something negative , about someone or something, is insinuated rather than actually said .
Suppose I look out at the class and say to you: “Well, at least Erin cares about her appearance.”
This is innuendo because it suggests that some of you—and maybe even every student but Erin—care very little about their appearance.
A loaded question is a question that makes one or more unwarranted or unjustified assumptions.
“ Hey AJ, do you still cheat on exams?” is a loaded question. The question assumes that AJ has cheated in the past. If AJ has never cheated (fat chance), the assumption is unwarranted, and so the question is loaded because the damage is done.
If I say: “So Lauren, who are you dating this week?” I’m suggesting that Lauren goes through boyfriends like Kleenex(even though we know Lauren is a sweet, pure young lady )
A downplayer is a word or expression that is used to play down or diminish the importance of a claim.
“ So Beau, I see that you’re only in one AP class?” Here the downplayer is “only,” and the implication is that with only one AP course, you can’t be a very significant scholar. Or
Quotation marks can be used to downplay the significance of something: Tara plans to get her “education” from Del Tech.
A proof surrogate is an expression that is used to suggest that there is evidence for a claim without actually citing any such evidence.
Saying “Experts say that teaching causes baldness.”
-without saying who the experts are and how it is known that what they say is true is an example of proof surrogate.
Another example is “Studies show that girls who wear ponytails suffer from arrested social development” without specifying which studies, and who did them, and according to what standards they were conducted.
Or, “It is obvious that President Obama practices reverse racism.” when the claim might not be obvious at all .